Repetition suppression of ventromedial prefrontal activity during judgments of self and others

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 04/2008; 105(11):4507-12. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0708785105
Source: PubMed


One useful strategy for inferring others' mental states (i.e., mentalizing) may be to use one's own thoughts, feelings, and desires as a proxy for those of other people. Such self-referential accounts of social cognition are supported by recent neuroimaging observations that a single brain region, ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC), is engaged both by tasks that require introspections about self and by tasks that require inferences about the minds of others perceived to be similar to self. To test whether people automatically refer to their own mental states when considering those of a similar other, we examined repetition-related suppression of vMPFC response during self-reflections that followed either an initial reflection about self or a judgment of another person. Consistent with the hypothesis that perceivers spontaneously engage in self-referential processing when mentalizing about particular individuals, vMPFC response was suppressed when self-reflections followed either an initial reflection about self or a judgment of a similar, but not a dissimilar, other. These results suggest that thinking about the mind of another person may rely importantly on reference to one's own mental characteristics.

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Available from: Adrianna C. Jenkins, Aug 26, 2014
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    • "Exploring this issue was the goal of the current study. As in previous research on trait codes (Heleven & Van Overwalle, 2015; Jenkins et al., 2008; Ma et al., 2014a; 2014b), we presented a behavioral trait-implying description (prime sentence) followed by another behavioral description (target sentence). We created two conditions by preceding the target description (e.g., implying nice) by a prime description that implied the same trait, or a dissimilar competence trait which also differed in valence (e.g., unintelligent). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigates to what extent social and competence traits are represented in a similar or different neural trait code. To localize these trait codes, we used fMRI repetition suppression, which is a rapid reduction of neuronal responses upon repeated presentation of the same implied trait. Participants had to infer an agent's trait from brief trait-implying behavioral descriptions. In each trial, the critical target sentence was preceded by a prime sentence that implied the same trait or a different competence-related trait which was also opposite in valence. The results revealed robust repetition suppression from prime to target in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) given a similar (social) as well as a dissimilar (competence) prime. The suppression given a similar prime confirms earlier research demonstrating that a trait code is represented in the ventral mPFC. The suppression given a dissimilar prime is interpreted as indicating that participants categorize a combination of competence and social information into novel subcategories, reflecting nice (but incompetent) or nerdy (but socially awkward) traits. A multivoxel pattern analysis broadly confirmed these results, and pinpointed the inferior parietal cortex, cerebellum, temporo-parietal junction and mPFC as areas that differentiate between social and competence traits.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Social Neuroscience
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    • "6 One notorious instance of this is the " false-consensus effect " (see Marks and Miller, 1987 for a review); though see also Goldman (2006); Goldman (in particular Chapter 7) for a survey of all the ( " high-level " mind-reading) domains in which subjects have been shown to attribute their own perspectives and knowledge to others. 7 Intriguingly, humans have even been shown to recruit the same neural structures when answering questions about themselves and similar, but not dissimilar others (Mitchell et al., 2006; Jenkins et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Homophily, or "love for similar others," has been shown to play a fundamental role in the formation of interpersonal ties and social networks. Yet no study has investigated whether perceived similarities can affect tacit coordination. We had 68 participants attempt to maximize real monetary earnings by choosing between a safe but low paying option (that could be obtained with certainty) and a potentially higher paying but "risky" one, which depended on the choice of a matched counterpart. While making their choices participants were mutually informed of whether their counterparts similarly or dissimilarly identified with three person-descriptive words as themselves. We found that similarity increased the rate of "risky" choices only when the game required counterparts to match their choices (stag hunt games). Conversely, similarity led to decreased risk rates when they were to tacitly decouple their choices (entry games). Notably, though similarity increased coordination in the matching environment, it did not did not increase it in the decoupling game. In spite of this, similarity increased (expected) payoffs across both coordination environments. This could shed light on why homophily is so successful as a social attractor. Finally, this propensity for matching and aversion to decoupling choices was not observed when participants "liked" their counterparts but were dissimilar to them. We thus conclude that the impact of similarity of coordination should not be reduced to "liking" others (i.e., social preferences) but it is also about predicting them.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
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    • "reater for socially close vs . distant others ( Table 1 ) . Beyond pain and reward , studies also demonstrate increased neural activity in regions engaged when reflecting about one ' s own thoughts and beliefs ( in the mPFC / vmPFC ) when mentalising about those of socially close vs . distant others ( Ochsner et al . , 2004 ; Ames et al . , 2008 ; Jenkins et al . , 2008 ; Rabin and Rosenbaum , 2012 ; Rabin et al . , 2013 ) . Perceptions of future selves appear to share characteristics with perceptions of others . Pronin et al . ( 2008 ) found that people predicted their preferences in the future would resemble those of others more so than their own preferences , suggesting that future selves are percei"
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    ABSTRACT: One route to understanding the thoughts and feelings of others is by mentally putting one's self in their shoes and seeing the world from their perspective, i.e., by simulation. Simulation is potentially used not only for inferring how others feel, but also for predicting how we ourselves will feel in the future. For instance, one might judge the worth of a future reward by simulating how much it will eventually be enjoyed. In intertemporal choices between smaller immediate and larger delayed rewards, it is observed that as the length of delay increases, delayed rewards lose subjective value; a phenomenon known as temporal discounting. In this article, we develop a theoretical framework for the proposition that simulation mechanisms involved in empathizing with others also underlie intertemporal choices. This framework yields a testable psychological account of temporal discounting based on simulation. Such an account, if experimentally validated, could have important implications for how simulation mechanisms are investigated, and makes predictions about special populations characterized by putative deficits in simulating others.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Frontiers in Neuroscience
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